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    Israel in Egypt

    Israel in Egypt

     

    Do you remember the 1956 epic film The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston? It is still shown on television each year, and dramatizes the biblical story of Moses. The same story is the subject of Handel’s Israel in Egypt, which begins with the Israelites’ bondage in Egypt, followed by descriptions of the plagues that Moses calls down upon the Egyptians to persuade the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Eventually the Pharaoh is persuaded and the Israelites are led out of Egypt by Moses, only to be pursued by the Pharaoh’s army of 600 chariots. The Israelites finally arrive at the Red Sea in front of them and trapped by mountains all around. Seeing Pharaoh’s soldiers coming, they are terrified. God tells Moses to stretch his hand out and the Red Sea waters part. The Israelites flee through the Red Sea, a wall of water on either side and dry land under their feet. The Egyptian army, arriving at the sea, charge in after them, but once the Israelites are safe on the other side, the sea rolls back in, covering the Egyptian army, its chariots and horses. The Israelites celebrate the power of their God and their deliverance.

    What a dramatic story! And this setting by Handel is full of “word painting” where the sound of the music imitates the text imagery. The plagues, especially, inspired him to create some of his most colorful painting – one can easily hear the hopping of the frogs, the buzzing of the flies, the pounding of the fiery hail, and the eerie darkness.

    It is a great irony that Handel who is associated with some of the greatest choral music in the English language (composer of the famous Messiah) was in fact a German whose lifelong interest was Italian opera. Handel wrote more than 40 operas, borrowing from some of that music for his choral music. Israel in Egypt is unique in its abundance of choruses and double choruses, and now stands second only to Messiah as Handel’s most beloved work.

    Israel in Egypt
    • April 2, 2017 to April 3, 2017
    • Civic Center Music Hall - Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre
    • $15-$60